Both mornings I woke up to a Moana moment. From our deck I watched a number of kayakers and six-person canoes head toward open water. They looked from a distance like watermen of days long past but were surely rowers out practicing before the day warmed up.
Pineapples, native to South America, made their way to Hawaii via a detour through Europe sometime between the 16th and 18th centuries. They were domesticated here and have long been an iconic crop. Dan and I toured the Maui Gold plantation yesterday. Our tour didn’t start until after lunch, so we had the morning free. Sleeping in was the first order of business, but that was an epic fail. I was up and out by 7:00 and Dan soon after. We had a beautiful 80 degree day to explore the ship, read in a shady spot, and grab an early lunch before the tour.
Our driver, Kenny, and our guide, Mo, were both fun and informative. We drove from the industrial-looking port past small strip malls and what seemed to be a lot of car dealerships for an island of 200,000 people. We passed what was once the largest sugarcane processing plant in the world! It dates back to 1901 and at its height employed 2,000 people, many recruited from other countries. It was only one of four huge plants on this small island. We drove past wild dragon fruit, citrus groves, buildings and walls made of lava rock, and eventually field after field of pineapple. We drove through the small town of Paia, a funky little dot on the map developed by surfers and hippies who were fond of its spiritual energy. The Dali Lama visited once and Willie Nelson has a home there. We learned that the island of Maui, which is all of 700 square miles, is made up of two volcanoes and a lava field, now a valley, that connects the two. The valley was once a dense forest but is now used for agriculture. Sugarcane slowly became king around the time of the American Civil War when U.S. businessmen from the South relocated their operations to Maui. Somewhere along the line the soil was depleted and someone decided to give pineapple a try. The rest is history.
The Maui Gold complex was nothing if not understated. No visitor center or history-of video, just a collection of old wood buildings, garages with yesterdays vehicles sitting idle, a repair shop, horse stables needed decades ago, and a basketball hoop. Eclectic and charming in its own way. It’s 1000 feet above sea level. Dirt roads that have served field works for a couple hundred years are the ones that took us though the pineapple fields. Surprise of the day: pineapple juice is made into wine, beer, vodka, and whiskey. It’s not just for smoothies and upside down cake any more. Getting creative with the juice is a niche for Maui Gold which, by the way, canned all of its fruit until 1953. Now it is all sold fresh. This brand of pineapple is known for its high sugar content and low acidity. We learned that pineapple plants can live pretty much anywhere but thrive in humid, warm weather. The long, thick stem that the fruit grows on top of is called a peduncle. I only mention it because it’s so fun to say. Repeat after me: peduncle, peduncle, peduncle. Pineapples even flower. We saw a few in partial bloom. All harvesting and planting is done by hand. It takes 18-24 months for a new plant to bear fruit and from then on it will produce one pineapple every eight months or so until it dies at the age of seven.
Some pineapples are not good enough to eat. We drove past the compost pile where the rejects are mixed with other biodegradables and turned into food for the cattle that also enjoy life on the island.
Joke: Why did the pineapple Not cross the road? He ran out of juice.
We slept until 8:00! Now you’re talking.
Michael, today’s driver and guide, filled our heads with history and fun facts. He explained that Polynesians arrived first followed by Marquesas Islanders and finally Tahitians. Each group brought their favorite things from home and slowly incorporated them into everyday life, chickens and pigs for example. Sailers inadvertently brought rats, and mongooses were introduced to control the rats. Someone did not do their homework, because one feeds during the day and one at night, so they both reproduced in record numbers and are, along with feral pigs, a huge problem for the island. Axis deer, a species known for its small size and disproportionally large racks, arrived on Maui in 1959 and have reproduced unchecked. They are now an issue along with the other troublemakers.
Fun fact #1: Sugarcane syrup is low on the glycemic index.
Fun fact #2: Hibiscus flower pedals are edible. We sampled some today and are alive to tell the tale.
We stopped in Makawao this morning. It has a Key West meets tiny cowboy town vibe. We browsed its cute shops before enjoying a light lunch. Wild chickens scurried around at our feet hoping for crumbs. From there we headed to Haiku for a forest walk. Our walk took us passed a couple of romance-novel swimming holes fed by small waterfalls. There were lots of flowering plants, cluster bamboo, ferns, and giant elephant ears. Michael gave us samples of five dietary staples: taro, which tastes like boiled potato; purple sweet potato; sugarcane, which we chewed for the juice but did not swallow the cane; tiny apple bananas; and fresh, raw coconut. We did not sample them, but Michel pointed out trees flush with bread fruit and avocados known for their large size (a record winner weighted seven and a half pounds) and buttery taste.
Our last stop of the day was at a beach where sea turtles take refuge from hungry sharks in the evening. Three dozen big guys and gals had already arrived with many more expected before sunset. Turtles are one of my self-proclaimed spirit animals, so I enjoyed this stop a lot.
We had a pleasant drive back to the ship with just enough time to shower and clean up before we met Sandy and Alan at the French restaurant for a delicious dinner.
… Oh Really? …
Englishman James Cook is believed to be the first European to have seen the island (1778).
French admiral Jean-François de Galaup was the first European to actually go ashore (1786).
Lahaina, on the other side of the island, was the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii from 1802 to 1845.
Maui is the second largest island in Hawaii and has the third largest population.
Approximately 10,000 humpback whales migrate to Maui each year.
Banyan trees, traditionally found in India, are also in Hawaii.
Maui’s Lahaina Banyan Tree is the largest in the United States.
The 30 miles of beach on Maui are made up of either volcanic black, white, or red sand.
Maui’s Lahaina High School, established in 1831, is the oldest secondary school west of the Rockies.
95% of Hawaiian goods and services are imported. Almost nothing is exported due to the cost of shipping.
One thought on “Kahului, Maui (March 26-27, 2023)”
Thank you for these wonderful, informative blogs! And for the beautiful pictures! ________________________________